‘I forgive him,’ father of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer speaks out

COCOA, Fla. (WESH) —The father of a 32-year-old woman killed while protesting the presence of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia told WESH 2 News that he forgives the man charged in his daughter’s death.

Three people were killed and dozens were injured amid what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade to protest the city’s decision to remove a Confederate monument. A car rammed into a crowd of protesters, killing Heather Heyer, and a state police helicopter crashed into the woods, leaving two troopers onboard dead.

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Heather Heyer’s father lives in Cocoa and told WESH 2 News that his daughter was the type of person who stood up for injustice wherever she saw it.

Mark Heyer said he learned of his daughter’s death Saturday when Heather’s mother called him.

“Through tears and from the hospital, she said ‘Our daughter’s gone,’ and I kind of lost it, I kind of freaked you know,” Mark Heyer said.

Heyer said he was not watching the news and did not know a riot had broken out in his daughter’s hometown.

“My daughter was a strong opinionated woman that was willing to stand up for what she believed in. For her it wasn’t lip service it was real,” Mark Heyer said of Heather Heyer.

Related: Vigils held across Tampa Bay after violence in Charlottesville

Mark Heyer said he doesn’t hold any ill will toward James Alex Fields Jr., the man who is believed to have been behind the wheel of the car that rammed into the crowd.

“I don’t hold any ill will toward this young fellow who did this, he’s stupid, OK. He’s only 20 years old. It don’t have enough sense to make a lifelong decision about nothing, you know,” Heyer said.

“He was misinformed, he was deceived and you know I forgive him flat out. I forgive him. The thing is, he’s going to have to live with the consequences, and he’s going to have to live knowing he took somebody’s life for the rest of his life. I wouldn’t wish that on nobody.”

Mark Heyer hopes that his daughter’s death will bring about change.

“Everybody has a circle of influence, no matter how small it is. Affect those people around you positively. Give them a cup of coffee, buy them a sandwich, tell them a joke, give them a smile, bring joy into their life. You don’t have to do the masses, do the people you deal with,” Mark Heyer said.

James Alex Fields Jr. was charged with second-degree murder and other counts.

The rally’s purpose was to condemn a decision by the city to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

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